Why are so many people becoming vegetarians lately

Vegetarians or vegans: why more and more people are giving up meat

In the past, people who didn't eat meat often received pitying looks - and had to be content with side dishes in restaurants. Today, many people are vegetarian or vegan, at least at times. What are the reasons?

There used to be a butcher's shop in the shop, as can be seen from the awning above the entrance. Today Ayhan Akbal sells burgers, Dürüm and Döner behind the former meat counter.

Readers of a local newspaper recently voted the latter the best in all of Nuremberg - even though it is vegan, i.e. it does not contain any animal products. Akbal's creation is called "Vegöner" and contains a lot of salad and meat substitutes made from dry soy.

Why do young people in particular prefer vegetarian and vegan options?

Long queues often form in front of his vegan snack bar at lunchtime and in the evening. On this day, mainly young people with fashionable glasses, rolled up jeans and sneakers sit outside on the benches. Benedikt Jahnke from the Office for Agricultural Policy and Food Culture in Trier says that the proportion of people living as vegetarians or vegans is highest among 15 to 30-year-olds. At that age, it is hip to set yourself apart through food. "The Fridays for Future movement pushed it all over again." Vegetarians do not eat meat, but - unlike vegans - do not necessarily do without eggs and dairy products.

The younger generations are socialized differently, says Ulrika Brandt from the ProVeg interest group. "Compassion and empathy are allowed, animals are often viewed as valuable beings and no longer as things or mere suppliers of meat." This is why 26-year-old Franziska Bohn has also been vegan for some time. "It's not that difficult for me because there are now many alternatives," she says.

When takeaway owner Akbal became a vegetarian in the early 1990s, things were very different. "There weren't that many beautiful products back then," he recalls. At that time, not eating meat meant, above all, giving up. But now there are snacks like the "Vegöner" in many German cities. Canteens and cafeterias have meat-free alternatives on offer every day. And even in many Bavarian inns there is at least one vegetarian dish on the menu.

How many Germans prefer not to eat meat?

"By the turn of the millennium at the latest, vegetarianism had reached the masses," says Jahnke. According to ProVeg, twelve percent of Germans have a vegetarian or vegan diet. The nutrition report of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture puts their number at six percent. But: More than every second German describes themselves as a flexitarian, so they occasionally deliberately do without meat.

This is also noticeable in the supermarket. According to information from the Nuremberg-based consumer research company GfK, sales of meat substitute products such as vegetarian or vegan sausages, schnitzel and meatballs have grown by more than 50 percent in the past few months. "Meat substitute products have left their niche and are now being bought by large parts of the population," says GfK expert Robert Kecskes. Flexitarians in particular bought these products. "For many, it is less and less a substitute, but an enrichment of the menu."

Does too much meat damage your health?

From a medical point of view, it would definitely be advisable for many people to eat less meat. "We have a very high meat consumption," says Hans Hauner, who heads the chair for nutritional medicine at the Technical University of Munich. "That can have negative consequences, especially if you eat a lot of processed meat products like sausage." Although this claim persists, meat is not essential for a balanced diet and vegetarians are not iron deficient per se.

World Vegetarian Day on October 1st indicates the benefits of a meatless diet. Since it was founded in 1977, it has become much easier to be vegetarian. Still, not everyone holds out. "For many it is only a phase of life," says nutrition sociologist Jahnke. "But this is formative for the rest of the diet."

Ex-vegetarians usually eat less and more consciously meat, i.e. they become flexitarians. In the opinion of ProVeg expert Brandt, the number will continue to rise: "In this respect, we will be celebrating World Flexitarian Day on October 1st in the future."

More on the topics

  • Life,
  • To eat and drink,
  • Nutrition,
  • Food,
  • World Vegetarian Day,
  • Flesh,
  • Vegan,
  • Dairy products,
  • Animals,
  • Agricultural policy,
  • Vegetarian diet,
  • sustainability